This year with my reading, I want to make a point to read more books with perspectives different than my own or by authors who look nothing like me. Last year I read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Dear Martin by Nic Stone and really enjoyed them, and felt like they added to the person who I am. Not every book that I’m going to read in 2018 with be like this, only because there are a few books I know coming out this year that won’t fit that criteria but I really want to read, that said, I am making a point to read more than just a perspective like mine.
So far for this challenge I have read:
Simon Vs. The Homosapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli
A story about a high school boy who is in the closet except to on person, a boy from his school who goes by Blue who is also in the closet. They don’t know who each other really are, but it’s a source of comfort to be able to talk and have this friendship. With their email correspondence, Simon forgets to log out of a school computer properly, and a classmate finds out his secret and uses it to try and black mail him into helping get with a girl who Simon is friends with.
After meeting Becky last September, it was really great finally getting to read one of her books. I chose Simon vs. The Homosapiens Agenda because the film was coming out in March, but also, I wanted to read a story about a character that I couldn’t ever possibly identify with. That being said, it caused me to think about the way I have treated people in the past, specifically a friend of mine before he was “out” and if I had read this book before I met him, I am sure I would have been a better person in that moment.
Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
This is a story about a quiet girl named Penny Lee, a young Korean girl, who is starting college and is happy to get away from life with her mother who she struggles to connect with. She ends up meeting Sam in the least ‘meet-cute’ way possible, and they exchange contact information, Penny being his emergency contact, and form a purely electronic relationship until it isn’t anymore.
I chose this one specifically because I thought the cover was beautiful and I knew I wanted to support author’s that weren’t all white, and the concept of the story sounded interesting. As a person who works in a book store and “specializes” in the teen section, I see a lot of stories come through and I want to be able to pick up books that fits the needs of my customers. I want to know which books I should recommend and have people supporting these books so we can have more diverse books, which leads to more empathetic people.
Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
This is a story about an Indian Muslim teenage girl who is struggling with the balance of being who she wants to be but also being a good Muslim daughter. Then a crime happens many, many miles away that shakes her community and now there is so much fear, hatred and bigotry and Maya needs to find out how she fits in with everything happening.
I chose this book because I grew up in Christian home, and the values and the way my parents raised me are quite different from how Indian and/or Muslim families raise their children. My parents never made me feel like I would disappoint them if I didn’t become a doctor or a lawyer. They never made me feel like I needed to be married young, spit out kids, and that he’s a “suitable” boy. Sure, my parents wanted me to be successful and they want me to marry a guy who shares the same values, but they let me have my freedom to choose, I never felt like I had to hide the things I wanted from my parents. Then to add on top of that, the fact that in America, my family is not seen as terrorists but Maya’s would be, simply because they are Muslim. That people spit such hatred and vitriol at people they don’t even know because of the colour of their skin or the god that they believe in. I wanted to read this story because I wanted to see this perspective and be able to compassionate and stand up the next time I see this kind of hatred.
Finally, these are the books I want to read:
Calling my Name by Liara Tamani
A story about a young African American girl who witnesses her friends around her having their firsts, while she feels left behind. Then she falls in love for the first time, and it’s a story about coming of age, beliefs, love, and finding out who where she belongs.
Ronit & Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin
A forbidden love story in the style of Romeo and Juliet between an Israeli girl and a Pakistani boy.
American Panda by Gloria Chao
The story of a Taiwanese/American girl who has just started college. She lives with the expectations of becoming a doctor, marrying a Taiwanese boy and having children, but those are not the dreams she has for herself. Falling for a boy who is definitely not Taiwanese, and trying to forge her own path, while reconnecting with her brother who is estranged for dating an unsuitable girl, it’s a story about life, family, love and walking away from the expectations of others to accomplish your own dreams.
I know that I will come across more stories over the course of the year that will be added to this list.
For shows, there are some really, really great ones out that I just love that are telling diverse stories that are so well done. Like books, watching shows that are diverse help see other perspectives and build on compassion and empathy.
Some of my favourite diverse shows are:
Jane the Virgin (2014-Present)
The story of Jane Gloriana Villanueva, a young latina girl who has committed to wait until marriage until she has sex. When going in for a regular pap test, she is accidentally artificially inseminated which throws her life in to chaos. Written with the love of telenovelas and soap operas in mind, this thoughtful and hilarious show showcases the diversity in people. The majority of the main cast are latino/latina/latinx, and doesn’t shy away from blending characters speaking English and Spanish (with English subtitles, for us very English folks.) I just love, love, love this show so much, and my favourite part is because it’s a perspective different from mine while still being incredibly well done and hilarious.
One of Netflix’s originals, Atypical tells the story of Sam Gardner, an 18 year old teenage boy going through high school while being on the autism spectrum. Sam decides that he wants to start dating and that sets him and his mother (who worries so much about her son) on two very different journeys. Though I am not on the spectrum, I feel like this show deals with autism with sensitivity, humour, and genuine intentions to bring this perspective to the world. There are moments where my heart just breaks, specifically a scene where Sam is about to get a bit intimate with a girl, and his voice over talks about how being touched a certain way sets off an incident. When the girl touches him in the way that hits one of his stressers, he proceeds to freak out and she uses the “R” word on him, and it shows authenticity in how people who don’t understand autism see it as something that makes a person less than. That scene was specifically put in to make you see that words like the “R” word are hurtful and should not be used to speak about people who are different (or really anything, honestly.)
Kim’s Convenience (2016-Present)
This is that story about a Korean/Canadian family where the parents immigrated to Canada and then had children, who grew up with two cultures. A little cheesy, and fun, this is the story of a family who struggle with keeping their identity while still being a part of a new country and the dynamics of parents growing up in Korea and children growing up in Canada. Jung, estranged from his father for his youthful indiscretions, Janet, struggling under the weight and expectations to please her parents while becoming her own person. In typical Canadian fashion, it does hit a bit on the cheese, but I love these characters so much and look forward to the next season.
One Day at a Time (2017-Present)
A reboot of the 70’s show of the same name, tells the story of a Cuban/American family dealing with so many things from citizenship, to identity, to racism in America. Followed by the well meaning but often clueless Schneider, we see this family that wants to be proud to be who they are (Cuban) who also struggle with how people view those who are latino/latina/latinx on top of being a single mom and on their sexuality. It’s quirky and funny, and quite political at times, but another story that I am glad is being told.
Fresh off the Boat (2015-Present)
I have only watched the first season and a half of this, but loved it so much. That said, it’s about a Taiwanese/American family based in the 1990’s who move from a China Town in Washington to Florida to open a new business. A goofy but well meaning husband, a tough mom who only wants her kids to be good Taiwanese boys, a rebel son who doesn’t fit into the mold of a good Taiwanese boy and two younger brothers who always hit their mother’s expectations, this show brings hilarity, and a glimpse into what it would have been like to be a Taiwanese/American family in the 90’s. Also, there are a few jokes at the expense of white people that as a white person, I found hilarious (never any malicious or mal-intent meant jokes.)
There are a few other shows that I really want to try (cough, Black Lightning, cough) and look forward to eventually getting there, watching these stories that mean so much to the people who they represent. It’s these big stories that hit the screens that another human finally gets to seem themselves represented in a way that is positive and wonderful, and I am all here for that. I want to continue to support stories that are different than my own. Don’t get me wrong, I like the stories that have very similar to mine, but it’s nice to switch it up and also learn something about an experience other than my own.
Please, send me your favourite diverse books/movies/shows/etc. I cannot guarantee that I will consume them all, but I’m always looking for something good that makes me a better person.